Brewton-Parker raising funds to name dorm, commons area after early-1900s African American benefactor

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Gates Hall was once the main school building for Union Baptist Institute. It now houses the administrative offices of Brewton-Parker College. BPC/Archives

By Caitlyn Parrish
BPC Staff Writer

MOUNT-VERNON — Warren C. Crawley, Sr. left a legacy for not only Brewton-Parker College but for the entire Montgomery County area.

Born around 1842 in Richmond, VA, Crawley was reportedly stolen from his family and brought to Montgomery County as a slave. In 1867, Crawley married Josephine, daughter of Samuel and Sally McRae Hill. Crawley and his wife had five children together.

In April of 1878, Crawley purchased land in Montgomery County. In 1904, an effort was made by local churches to start the Union Baptist Institute. The Mount Vernon/Ailey location was chosen but the site only had ten of the needed 15 acres. Crawley stepped forward to donate the other needed five acres. His generosity allowed the establishment of the school to go forward.

Gift given despite segregation era

Crawley’s donation was remarkable in an era of economic difficulty, but it is even more impressive when considering he knew that the practice of strict segregation would not allow his children or grandchildren to attend the school. In 1905, the Georgia Baptist Convention recognized Crawley for his generosity that crossed all boundaries of race. His was truly a Christ-like act of reconciliation that was remarkable for any time but especially in that day.

The girls dorm at Union Baptist Institute was named Rawling-Garbutt Hall. It was destroyed by fire on Feb. 12, 1945, at which point the school had been renamed Brewton-Parker Junior College. BPC/Archives

Crawley also donated additional land in Mount Vernon for the construction of the Warrens Chapel Methodist Church. The church later merged with Nepsey Methodist Church to become Nepsey-Warren United Methodist Church.

Crawley passed away on October 12, 1925. He was so well-respected by the community that The Montgomery Monitor once described Crawley as one “who had won for himself the favor of both races…. He was looked upon by those who knew him as a man of honor and integrity, faithful in the performance of whatever tasks fell to his lot, a good citizen, a Christian man, in whom a great number had unlimited confidence.”

Today, over a century later, Brewton-Parker College is seeking to honor Crawley’s legacy by the naming of a section of dorms on Brewton-Parker’s main campus. The family of Crawley is assisting the college in seeking to raise $350,000 to complete the fourth male dormitory in the Baron Ridge area. Reaching the goal will allow not only the construction to be finished, but also the paving and landscaping to make it a place of beauty to fittingly be renamed as the Warren C. Crawley Commons.

Denton Hall, which served as a boys dorm dating back to when it was Union Bible Institute, burned down on Feb. 12, 1969 when the school had been renamed Brewton-Parker Junior College. BPC/Archives

Banquet this Friday starts fundraising effort

As part of the project, a new memorial will also be erected in the front area of the campus that will commemorate his life and generous act that allowed the establishment of the college. Brewton-Parker hopes to begin this project in 2018, an especially significant year because of the remembrance of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. In the Warren C. Crawley Commons, students of different races and backgrounds will live amongst one another, a vision of diversity and unity that both King and Crawley could only dream about.

A Celebration of Heritage banquet will be held Friday, Feb. 3 and will recognize the achievements of African Americans in our community and will honor the legacy of Crawley. This will also serve as the inaugural event to raise the funds for the Warren C. Crawley project.

The banquet will be held at First Baptist Church Vidalia. The event will begin at 6 p.m.. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased by contacting Chad Ritchie at (912) 583-3167 or through critchie@bpc.edu.

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